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This week in Web alliances

Sun and Google join forces to boost their Web tools. Could partnership also challenge Microsoft's hold on PC applications?

Sun Microsystems and Google joined forces to boost their tools, but their alliance could also herald a challenge to Microsoft's hold on personal-computing applications.

The companies entered a multiyear partnership to help spread and develop each other's software, a deal that includes OpenOffice.org, Java and OpenSolaris from Sun, and Google's Toolbar. The partnership begins with a modest step: Within 30 days, the Google Toolbar will become a standard part of the software people get when they download Java from Sun's Web site.

The software the companies are working on directly competes with Microsoft's. For example, Java provides an alternative programming foundation to Windows and Microsoft's .Net, and OpenOffice competes directly with Microsoft Office. The Google Toolbar, meanwhile, leads to Google's services and not those Microsoft is trying to promote through MSN.

Interestingly, the landmark partnership wasn't the brainchild of top executives. It bubbled up from the rank and file of Sun's software-engineering department. Thorsten Laux, who was part of the StarOffice team Sun acquired in 1999, was promoted to director of Java engineering on the desktop in February. Within a month in his new job, Laux had an idea: Why don't Sun and Google team up to spread each other's Web-based technologies to a larger community?

Laux immediately began talking about the plan to his bosses, who he said were not hard to convince. Laux reached out to his old boss, a former Sun employee who was hired by Google last year. In no time, Google was on board, and within six months, contracts were signed and the deal was done, he said.

However, not everyone is impressed with the partnership. After much brouhaha leading up to the announcement, many bloggers were left scratching their heads at a press event they considered anticlimactic.

Blog entries with titles such as "Big whoop," "That's it?" and "Google and Sun announce yawn" abound on blog search site Technorati. It's clear that many in the blogosphere were looking for a more groundbreaking project to come from the companies.